Share / Discuss

All Her World’s a Stage

After graduation, Michaela Shuchman ’16 aspires to be an actor. Actually though, she already is one. 

“I grew up in the Philly theater community, where I was lucky enough to be part of a couple of professional theater productions,” she says. “When I was in 10th grade, I played in Fiddler on the Roof.”

Today, she’s juggling her senior year with the starring role of Molly in the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of the Tony-winning play Peter and the Starcatcher, which runs March 15–May 1.

“The nice thing about Swarthmore’s theater department is that it’s designed with all our individual interests in mind,” she says. “Allen Kuharski has worked so hard to create a wonderful department—everyone has been so supportive that I’ve been able to adapt my schedule as both a student and a professional.”

An improv comedian with Vertigo-go, a singer with Grapevine, and a Wharton RA, Shuchman fulfilled her acting thesis requirement before beginning Starcatcher rehearsals by playing opposite her best friend Michelle Johnson ’16 in Airswimming at Swarthmore’s tiny “black box” Frear Theater.

As a Lang Scholar, the honors theater major and education minor is also in her second year of implementing a theater curriculum for Philadelphia middle-school students, and this May she’ll tour local schools with a solo performance piece. Her goal isn’t necessarily to encourage students to become actors, but to use the skills of acting—communication, community building, conflict resolution, self-confidence, and public speaking—in their everyday lives.

Being able to spearhead such a deeply personal and impactful project is just one reason why Shuchman knew she wanted to come to a school like Swarthmore rather than attend an acting conservatory.

“I always knew that I wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t want to only be able to bring a high-school education to my characters. That’s why I’ve taken courses in biology, history, statistics, psychology, and dramaturgy here,” she says. “My experience at Swarthmore has made me a much richer presence onstage because I can bring a deeper knowledge to my work.” 

Whether she’s playing a vulnerable asylum inmate, a fiery 13-year-old, or anyone in between, Shuchman draws her inspiration from powerful women she’s seen, both onstage and off.

“The opportunity to be a role model for other young women who see my shows is a dream for me,” she says. “I’m the only girl in Peter and the Starcatcher, so for me to be up there leading this thing is huge.”